||[Aug. 17th, 2003|09:01 am]
baronbrian mentioned my entry about visiting Amish country, specifically linking to the Lehman's website and waxing rhapsodic about hardware. Memories were jolted out of their wee compartments in the rolltop desk that is my brain (all sorts of cubbyholes in which things only vaguely related get stored together, so that when searching for one thing I am likely to come across all sorts of interesting bits).
When we lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, one of the few roads leading out of town was Chena Hotsprings Road. Chena Hotsprings Road was, for all intents and purposes, a 50-mile-long driveway for Chena Hotsprings, for the road ran up to the lodge and stopped. Along its length, however, were a growing number of subdivisions, old homesteaders spreads, a few crotchety gold miners, some camp grounds, a couple restaurants, and Tack's General Store.
Tack's was 30 miles out of town, and there were times when we drove out there just to have lunch. I have never seen a place quite like it. Besides a small restaurant serving some of the best sandwiches (and by far the best veggie sandwich) I've ever eaten, Tack's hosted the most extensive greenhouse in Fairbanks. Cindy Tack was a master gardner and each spring we purchased all our flowers and vegetable starts at Tack's, relying on Cindy's wisdom about what varieties grew best in Fairbanks.
The hardware store itself was a marvel in compact selection of the best tools, sold at reasonable prices. I remember hearing more than one person exclaim in delight, "I've been looking all over for one of these" at this odd little store in the middle of nowhere. They also had an excellent selection of kitchen wares in a room upstairs, and down the hall from it a respectable fabric store tucked in one corner. Staffing was small, so when we quilters descended upon the store in hordes of a dozen or more, Cindy just sent us up there to cut our own yardage.
In addition to all this, Tack's was the only place alone Chena Hotsprings Road where one could buy groceries, and the front of the store was a treasure trove of sensible and interesting food choices - bulk organics alongside Campbell's soups.
We never drove out along Chena Hotsprings Road, whether to hike or canoe, or actually on our way to the hotsprings, that we didn't stop in at Tack's and poke around, looking for treasures. When we left Fairbanks it was one of the places I most hated to bid goodbye.
I got to visit it once a few years after we had moved away, when I returned to attend "Quilting in the Snow," the annual Quilter's Guild weekend retreat at Chena Hotsprings (50-60 women taking over the rec room with their sewing machines, stitching fabric and drinking margaritas - how can you not love it?). Cindy was delighted to see me and said we should get back to visit more often.
That spring the heater for the greenhouse malfunctioned and caught fire in the night. Isolated as Tack's was, no one noticed until flames were shooting up from the back of the store. The nearest firetruck was almost 25 miles away. Tack's burned to the ground that night.
Cindy and Mike had insurance, but not enough to rebuild what had been lost. They decided it was time to retire.
I may go back to visit my friends in Fairbanks some day, but I don't think I will ever go to Chena Hotsprings again. I would rather have my mind remember Tack's as if it were still there.